EL PASO, Texas - For decades, City leaders have been searching for something to spur Downtown development.
If a rush of recent projects are any indication, it appears they've found that catalyst in the new Downtown Ballpark.
El Pasoans don't have to look too far to find new businesses Downtown banking on the Ballpark. And now ABC-7 has learned there are plans for a new high-rise mixed use apartment building just down the street.
"It's really neat to see Downtown begin to take off," said Matthew McElroy, director of the City Development department.
McElroy said El Paso's new ballpark has been a "game changer" Downtown.
"We've seen significant increase in interest in buildings Downtown and we've seen not just interest, but people actually taking the risk on doing projects," he said. "conservatively, there's another dozen or so projects in the pipeline for Downtown. We didn't see this interest before the Ballpark announcement so, while everybody was focusing on Downtown, the great majority of this has come after that."
Perhaps the biggest and best example of the Ballpark spurring Downtown development is down the street from it at the old Oscar's Laundry, which has been purchased by local developer TJ Karam of Bearing development. He told ABC-7 he plans to develop a beer garden on the first floor and then build 10 stories of apartments on the lot.
"We actually went through the process of changing the zoning from C-4 to C-5 because it's such a small lot and we're in the initial design phase right now," Karam said. "But it'll be 10 stories above the beer garden so we're really looking at 11 and a half to 12 stories with a rooftop terrace that'll hopefully look right down into the ballpark."
Karam says the Ballpark is already making a difference, motivating those who were hesitant to invest Downtown.
"The Ballpark just sweetened the pot for us and we expect the Ballpark to be a huge economic driver for Downtown," Karam said. "Ourselves as well as our investors know in the long run it's going to be a successful venture."
McElroy said he's been with the City of El Paso five years and never seen this kind of interest in Downtown. Now he's seeing people with concrete plans actually moving forward with projects.
As for Karam, he expects to open his beer garden down the street before opening day in April and expects to have the 10 story apartment complex completed during the first season of Triple-A baseball in El Paso.